Now, I’m going to talk about one of the crucial aspects of a PhD student’s life, a supervisor.
Supervisors help guide students through their PhD journey, helping students in many ways. They can provide advice, help you access labs and equipment, help you network and provide valuable letters of reference. Most importantly, they can become your trusted confidante during your project as you will see them on a regular basis during your project work. They are meant to guide you, give you advice when you need it and during the final stages of your study, provide valuable feedback and corrections for your written thesis. Many universities and academic institutions assign your guide to you, but in the event, you have a choice, here are some pointers to keep in mind.
1. Check their research interests and publications
You are more likely to get better participation and feedback from a supervisor who shares your interest than someone who’s forced to be there.
Supervisors have other responsibilities and duties besides guiding PhD students. This can make meeting your mentor to receive the necessary guidance difficult. Be prepared for unforeseen delays that may arise owing to your supervisor having a tight schedule. Make sure to e-mail them in advance and set-up meetings whenever possible.
3. Be prepared for every scenario
Supervisors are only human and sometimes, drastic changes may happen. Your supervisor may be unable to continue guiding you and assisting with your project. This may be due to personal reasons or professional reasons. Your university will usually reassign you to a new supervisor, but it may take some time for your new mentor to fully understand your project and adjust to the work.
As dire as this makes things sound, these are just some of the worst-case situations. Learn to communicate when you have questions, when you are worried about your findings or when you are falling behind schedule. Make sure to convey this to your supervisor as soon as possible.
And perhaps most importantly, learn the art of self-sufficiency. By the end of a PhD, you are meant to be an independent researcher. Your supervisor is meant to be a source of support, not a crutch for the entire project. Search for materials on your own, plan out your research and put in as much effort as you can.
So what do you do if you do not see eye to eye with your PhD supervisor?
First, assess your situation: is it so bad that you cannot imagine another week working under him/her or is it something you can compromise about? If it is the former, your university or college might have appropriate channels for handling the situation. You can approach someone in the department who is either at a senior level or is someone you trust and express your concerns. But be diplomatic with your words – you want to avoid unnecessary drama. If all else fails, make sure you have a strong support system available to you and be prepared to go the extra mile for success.
The next post in this series will cover some final tips related to handling your PhD thesis. For more information or if you need any help to complete your thesis, please feel free to contact us.
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